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Intensive training and practice (ITaP): Impact and possibilities for primary trainee teachers and schools

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This article outlines the impact and possibilities in supporting primary trainee teachers (across both three-to-seven and five-to-11 age phases) with their developing pedagogy, employing the new approach of intensive training and practice (ITaP) within initial teacher education (ITE). Given that ITaP heavily involves partner schools and will likely form part of the new Ofsted inspection framework, it is essential to carefully consider this different approach in supporting trainee assessment across the curriculum.

ITaP is designed as an integrated approach within ITE and differs from other aspects of teacher education due to the ‘intense focus on specific pivotal areas’ of assessment (DfE, 2022, p. 26). As such, ITaP offers an opportunity to have an intensive focus on a specific and fundamental aspect of practice to ‘give trainees feedback on foundational aspects of the curriculum where close attention to and control of content, critical analysis, application and feedback are required’ (DfE, 2022, p. 26).

The design of our ITaP pilots aligned with the philosophy of the 2024/5 ITE recommendations and the National Institute of Teaching (NIoT 2023) pilot programme, encompassing the key aim to ‘strengthen the link between evidence and classroom practice’ (DfE, 2022, p. 26). We felt that it would be useful for school leaders to share some of the impact and the key areas of learning from these early pilot ITaP projects.

The focus for our very first pilot ITaP included assessments on supporting behaviour management, transitions, moving in and out of continuous provision, questioning for assessment and effective modelling. These focus areas of assessment enabled some further opportunities in terms of approximations of practice (Grossman, 2018; Kavanagh et al., 2020; Reich, 2022), utilising digital software to deepen trainees’ knowledge and enhance their pedagogical development in classroom-based scenarios. Furthermore, ITaP enabled trainees to put theory into practice and receive high-quality feedback outside of their professional practice classroom settings in a ‘safe’ learning space (NIoT, 2023, p. 1).


The 2024/25 ITT criteria guidance document (DfE, 2024) identifies that all accredited providers must have a trainee assessment and progression framework in place to ‘assess trainees with appropriate frequency on their knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, and how trainees apply such knowledge and understanding in classroom practice’ (DfE, 2024, p. 34). Furthermore, this criterion places an emphasis on the importance and effective use of ongoing formative assessment practices in order to provide focused feedback to enable trainee teachers to make effective progress and to support trainees’ knowledge and understanding of ‘how practice is informed and shaped by research and evidence’ (ibid).

The overarching structure utilised for each five-day ITaP was reflective of the evidence-based approach outlined by the ‘Carter review of initial teacher training (ITT)’ (Carter, 2015). This ‘research-informed clinical practice’ model in teacher training is outlined by Burn and Mutton (2015), whereby trainees access practical knowledge and skills from experts (schools and universities), engage in enquiry, trial strategies and techniques, evaluate outcomes and develop decision-making capacities and professional judgements through exploring experienced teachers’ reasoning. Further guidance from the NIoT (2023) pilot programme outlined a framework informed by the work of Grossman (2018) and Teaching Works (2022):

  • introduce: supporting trainees’ learning about the theory of teaching and learning around a given aspect of pivotal practice 
  • analyse: supporting trainees to analyse and deconstruct expert teaching 
  • prepare: providing opportunities for trainees to use approximations to practise and obtain expert feedback
  • enact: supporting trainees to apply their learning in the classroom in different scenarios and contexts 
  • assess: monitoring trainees’ knowledge and skills.


This model highlights ‘assess’ as a final, summative step. However, ongoing purposeful formative assessment was invaluable throughout each stage, across both university-based and school-based delivery of each ITaP. For example, in university-based sessions, formative assessment supported tutors’ awareness of the levels of knowledge and understanding of trainees’ progress towards the key outcomes, in addition to trainees’ self-reflection in relation to their own progress.

ITaP provision

Designing and piloting ITaP involves extensive planning, preparation, coordination, communication and collaboration with expert school partners to support trainee teachers. As such, these pilot ITaP programmes have provided invaluable opportunities to trial, review, test and rethink a range of models in preparation for our 2024/25 ITE curriculum with our school partners.

As this was our pilot year, a range of different models were trialled, alongside the essential factor of ensuring that the ITaP ‘week’ was purposefully woven into the curriculum and offered seamless learning for our trainee teachers. This strategic approach enabled us to identify which model(s) are most effective at any given point in time. For example, one model for primary PGCE trainees near the beginning of their training programme adopted a ‘hybrid’ model of two days on campus and three days in school, in which there were ongoing weekly foci to promote clear links between theory discussed in university and practice observed in schools.

For each ITaP, granular aspects were selected from the core content framework (CCF) (DfE, 2019), in consultation with our school partners. Once each area of focus was established, the next step was to develop an effective assessment approach that would provide trainee ‘feedback on foundational aspects of the curriculum’ (DfE, 2022, p. 26). Each ITaP was then designed with clear aims that could be assessed and evaluated from day one to day five. Pre-ITaP audits were completed to gauge initial knowledge, understanding and skills, and this data was compared and analysed to both midpoint and end-of-ITaP audits for all stakeholders. Trainees also reflected on their individual progress by completing self-reflective accounts, summative quizzes and target-setting action plans.

Pilot models also included further opportunities in terms of approximations of practice (Grossman, 2018; Kavanagh et al., 2020; Reich, 2022), such as rehearsal, deliberate practice and use of digital software to replicate scenarios. Each of these opportunities provided ‘unique’ and distinct elements to each ITaP, with highly positive feedback from trainees. Digital approximation using an interactive software element was a particular success for a number of reasons. When the focus was on questioning for assessment, university-based tutors were able to immediately review trainee teachers who needed more or less support; consider which scenarios to explore in more depth; and model and encourage strong responses to support other trainees to self-reflect and rethink, where appropriate. Trainees highlighted that the digital approximation scenarios did replicate the classroom accurately and therefore trainees felt that it was an activity that was worthwhile, because they could then apply these strategies for questioning for assessment in their own teaching methods rather than being abstract.

The impact of this particular ITaP to support questioning for assessment was demonstrated within trainees’ weekly progress summary reflections and lesson observations, which then led to deeper discussions in classrooms in schools. Mentors in schools also commented that trainees were using valuable questioning for assessment techniques in the classroom, given that this had been the focus of the ITaP. Examples included strategies such as cold-calling, bouncing and probing questions, scenarios, case studies and provocations to check pupil understanding. Schools reported that this was also a good opportunity for teacher development.

Stakeholders agreed that each ITaP had proven to be highly successful in supporting trainee teachers to make effective progress across the curriculum, alongside key benefits for school colleagues, especially as an opportunity for teacher development.


Following the ITaP pilot, we thought that it would be useful for schools to consider the following to maximise impact:

  • Ensure that relevant staff are informed of their roles regarding the ITaP in advance, so that they have a clear understanding of the expectations
  • Highlight the ITaP content received at university so that this can be built upon during the school-based ITaP days and vice versa
  • Provide appropriate time to relevant staff to undertake their duties in relation to the ITaP focus
  • Provide co-collaboration time (lead mentors supporting mentors and school colleagues with planning and designing)
  • Provide enhanced mentor training (mentors being released to attend training on the specifics of ITaP and having time to prepare) 
  • Carry out contingency planning (absences, school staff absence, risk assessments)
  • Ensure good communication (finding a simple and effective way to inform all schools without additional workload for mentors)
  • Develop meaningful all-stakeholder evaluations, with all voices being heard and acted upon.


The key to impact for schools was ensuring that everything was considered in advance of the ITaP. Equally, mentors understanding the rationale behind ITaP and their role within it is key to its effectiveness and development. It is therefore vital to build in enhanced time for co-collaboration and training/development. We also need to be mindful not to ‘overburden’ schools and mentors or put more pressure on trainee teachers.

Future possibilities

All ITE providers are required to offer ITaP opportunities for trainee teachers from September 2024 (DfE, 2024). These ITaP pilots provided detailed feedback from school partners, mentors, university staff and trainee teachers, outlining the benefits of focusing both trainees and staff teams in schools on research-informed principles.

Here at Edge Hill University, we will endeavor to work directly with our school partners and school leaders in co-creating further key aspects of our ambitious curriculum. We must ensure that we embed quality assurance (QA) and purposeful evaluation within ITaP provision and revisit our aims in preparing trainee teachers for their professional roles in the wide range of schools in our partnership.

Final thoughts

ITaP offers an opportunity to focus on a fundamental yet ‘granular’ aspect of practice as part of our carefully sequenced and ambitious curriculum. It is hoped that by taking time to really focus on these pivotal elements, which are fundamental to effective practice and pedagogy, trainee teachers will focus on their value and carefully consider their individual learning in order to make better progress. In addition, by encouraging and developing reflexive and reflective teachers, we will also embed increased engagement with research, which is central to continual development of pedagogical knowledge and skills.

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    Author(s): Bill Lucas